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Nicole Sealey

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Biography

Born in St. Thomas, U.S.V.I. and raised in Apopka, Florida, Nicole Sealey is the author of Ordinary Beast, forthcoming from Ecco in fall 2017, and The Animal After Whom Other Animals Are Named, winner of the 2015 Drinking Gourd Chapbook Poetry Prize. Her other honors include an Elizabeth George Foundation Grant, the Stanley Kunitz Memorial Prize from the American Poetry Review, A Daniel Varoujan Award and the Poetry International Prize, as well as fellowships from CantoMundo, Cave Canem, MacDowell Colony and the Poetry Project. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker and elsewhere. Nicole holds an MLA in Africana Studies from the University of South Florida and an MFA in creative writing from New York University. She is the executive director at Cave Canem Foundation.

Poem

Medical History

 

I’ve been pregnant. I’ve had sex with a man

 

who’s had sex with men. I can’t sleep.

 

My mother has, my mother’s mother had,

 

asthma. My father had a stroke. My father’s

 

mother has high blood pressure.

 

Both grandfathers died from diabetes.

 

I drink. I don’t smoke. Xanax for flying.

 

Propranolol for anxiety. My eyes are bad.

 

I’m spooked by wind. Cousin Lilly died

 

from an aneurysm. Aunt Hilda, a heart attack.

 

Uncle Ken, wise as he was, was hit

 

by a car as if to disprove whatever theory

 

toward which I write. And, I understand,

 

the stars in the sky are already dead.

 

 

A Violence

 

You hear the high-pitched yowls of strays

 

fighting for scraps tossed from a kitchen window.

 

They sound like children you might have had.

 

Had you wanted children. Had you a maternal bone,

 

you would wrench it from your belly and fling it

 

from your fire escape. As if it were the stubborn

 

shard now lodged in your wrist. No, you would hide it.

 

Yes, you would hide it inside a barren nesting doll

 

you’ve had since you were a child. Its smile

 

reminds you of your father, who does not smile.

 

Nor does he believe you are his. “You look just like

 

your mother,” he says, “who looks just like a fire

 

of suspicious origin.” A body, I’ve read, can sustain

 

its own sick burning, its own hell, for hours.

 

It’s the mind. It’s the mind that cannot.

 

 

OBJECT PERMANENCE

 

 

We wake as if surprised the other is still there,

each petting the sheet to be sure.

 

How have we managed our way

to this bed—beholden to heat like dawn

 

indebted to light. Though we’re not so self

-important as to think everything

 

has led to this, everything has led to this.

There’s a name for the animal

 

love makes of us—named, I think,

like rain, for the sound it makes.

 

You are the animal after whom other animals

are named. Until there’s none left to laugh,

 

days will start with the same startle

and end with caterpillars gorged on milkweed.

 

O, how we entertain the angels

with our brief animation. O,

 

how I’ll miss you when we’re dead.